Authorities continue to analyze the case.
This Thursday, US media gathered that in light of the increasing number of people vaccinated and the decrease in COVID-19 cases, many experts argue that the time will soon come to lift everyone’s commitment to wearing a mask at close distances.
And according to them, such a measure could encourage even the most reluctant people to be vaccinated by showing them a clear advantage in doing so.
The The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), the main public health agency in the United States, already recommends that people who have been vaccinated do not wear masks outdoors or indoors when in small groups with other vaccinated people.
President Joe Biden, who set a July 4 deadline for 70% of American adults to receive at least one dose, said in a meeting with governors on Thursday that further dilution would be imminent.
Currently, about 59% of adults have received at least one dose, and the country records about 38,000 new cases of COVID-19 every day, or 11 cases per 100,000 people, a rate that continues to decline.
The consensus among experts is that in light of these encouraging data, it may soon be possible to phase out masks in most public places.
“Those who have already been vaccinated can wear a mask as a sign of solidarity or symbolically, but it does not benefit anyone else,” says Vinay Prasad, an epidemiologist at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).
For them, “there is a very small chance that the infection could be detected by PCR testing, let alone spread to someone,” he adds.
Initially, health authorities were cautious about the ability of vaccines to stop transmission, as clinical trials showed their effectiveness only in symptomatic cases, without ruling out the possibility of infection without symptoms of disease (fever, etc.).
But real-world data showed that, as many immunologists have predicted, vaccines are also very effective against asymptomatic cases, says Monica Gandhi, professor of infectious diseases at the University of California, San Francisco.
A study among healthcare workers in Great Britain showed an 86% reduction in asymptomatic cases after two doses of the Pfizer vaccine. A large study among the Israeli population showed an efficacy of 94%.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at the end of April, about 9,000 people out of the 95 million who were vaccinated were infected with the virus, or 0.009%. Hospitalization and mortality rates were 0.0009% and 0.0001%, respectively.
Even when a case of a vaccinated person occurs, Israeli research shows that the viral load in the nose is too low and too low to infect another person.
“The mask is a tool, and vaccines are the solution,” says Monica Gandhi, who has written several publications about the importance of the mask during the pandemic and was one of the first to promote its global use in the United States.
“The tool is no longer useful once you have the solution, so when we get to a certain level of grafting, it won’t be necessary,” he says.
Angela Rasmussen of Vaccines and Infectious Diseases Canada says another good reason to loosen these restrictions is to motivate reluctant people to get vaccinated.
This has become a critical problem in the United States, where the daily vaccination rate has fallen from its April peak, and supply is outstripping demand.
But it will be important to establish clear numerical levels, “because one of the biggest communication problems during the pandemic has been the public perception that the rules of the game set by health authorities have changed over time,” says Rasmussen.
His recommendation is to abolish the requirement to wear a mask indoors in areas where fewer than two cases are recorded per 100,000 people per day, and where 70% of the population is vaccinated.
But she and other experts believe that masks will remain a personal choice, and that it will still be smart to use them for older people who also have risk factors.
Amish Adalja, who works on epidemic measures at the Johns Hopkins Center, says mask use could become seasonal. And he expects that “the United States will become a society with a lot of masks, especially during the flu season, at home and in transportation.” (I)